NASHVILLE-- Looking to stay on the right side of NCAA Tournament projections, the Florida Gators went on the road on Wednesday night & beat the Vanderbilt Commodores 71-55. Freshman guard Andrew Nembhard led all scorers with 19 points, while backcourt mate Jalen Hudson chipped in 17.
Florida (17-11 9-6 SEC) entered the game looking to get their second win in the month over Vanderbilt (9-19 0-15 SEC). The Gators beat the Commodores 66-57 in Gainesville on February 13th. And the Gators scored the first points of the game when Nembhard hit a three pointer. Meanwhile the Commodores, who entered the game having lost 6 conference games by single digits this year, got on the scoreboard on the next possession with a basket from forward Yanni Wetzell.
The Gators put together a quick 4-0 run with a layup from center Kevarrius Hayes & two free throws from Nembhard. Trailing by 5, the Commodores got their first three pointer of the game from forward Aaron Nesmith to make the score 7-5. But Nembhard made it seven points in the first four minutes of the game when he added a layup, giving the Gators a four point lead.
While Nembhard got off to the strong start in the first four minutes, the next four belonged to Hudson, who came off the bench to hit a three pointer & get a dunk on back to back possessions, which led the Gators to grab a 20-8 lead.
Down by double digits, the Commodores tried chipping away at the deficit with a three pointer from guard Saben Lee but Nembhard matched that three with his second of the game. And another dunk by Hudson made the score 25-12.
Five straight points by the Commodores including another three pointer by Lee helped the home team make the deficit single digits again but this time Hudson answered Lee's three with a three pointer making the Gators lead double digits again.
With back to back hoops from forwards Matt Ryan & Clevon Brown, the Commodores seemed to be making yet another attempt for a run but like most of the first half, the Gators answered, with their own back to back hoops, first by guard Noah Locke then another hoop by Nembhard, making him a perfect four for four in the first half.
The two teams traded baskets the final five minutes of the first half, with the Gators ending the first 20 minutes of the game with a 41-29 lead. And in that first half, the Gators were six for 13 on three pointers.
With the help of four points from forward Keyontae Johnson, just two minutes into the final 20 minutes of the game, the Gators 12 point halftime lead quickly jumped up to 17. A basket by Simi Shittu got the Commodores their first basket of the second half. But just like in the first half when the Gators backcourt had an answer for any attempt of a run by the Commodores, Nembhard hit his first shot of the second half with a long three pointer.
With the score 50-32, the Commodores were able to put together their best run of the game, a 9-2 run in just over three minutes, to get within 11. And after a basket by Hayes, the Commodores cut the deficit to 10 after a three point shot by Lee.
The Gators lead remained at 10 until less than seven minutes remained in the game. That's when the Gators put together a their own 9 to one run, capped by six straight points by Hayes plus a three pointer by Hudson, making the score 65-47. And over the final five minutes of the game, the two teams traded baskets with the Gators maintaining their large lead.
Florida looks for their sixth straight win overall when they host Georgia in Gainesville at 8:30PM on Saturday night. Coverage begins on 95.3 WDAE with the pre game at 7:55.